Green Glossary

Getting 'mixed up' with all the different green terms, certifications, and logos? The Rochester Institute of Technology has created a guide that will help you determine what's what when Going Green!

The following are more COMMON terms:

  • PCW - Post-consumer waste, a waste type produced by the end consumer, material that individuals routinely discard
  • Windpower - The conversion of wind energy into electricity
  • Carbon Neutral - Zero total carbon release, brought about by balancing the amount of carbon released with the amount sequestered or offset
  • Greenhouse Gases - The gases present in the atmosphere, which reduce the loss of heat into space

  • The following represent a large chunk of the logos and certification marks that you'll come across in the paper world:

    The recycling symbol is an internationally-recognized symbol used to designate recyclable materials. The use of the symbol is not regulated (or trademarked), thus countless variants exist. In the paper world, use of the symbol means that the paper has been recycled (compared to "is recyclable"). A percentage inside the symbol indicates the amount of recycled fiber.

    Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, non-profit association that encourages the responsible management of the world’s forests and sets standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable way. FSC Certification means that an independent third party has established a chain of custody to verify that the paper originates in an FSC-certified sustainable, well-managed forest. A thorough comparison of FSC, SFI, CSA, and PEFC is available is available at

    Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is similar in goal to the Forest Stewardship Council, but it is managed by the paper industry. It is comprised of management practices designed to ensure the future health and growth of forests, but does not use an independent certifier nor does it address problems such as converting old forests into tree plantations, as FSC does. A thorough comparison of FSC, SFI, CSA, and PEFC is available is available at


    Canadian Standards Association is a membership-based association serving business, industry, government, and consumers. It develops standards that address real needs, such as enhancing public safety and health, advancing the quality of life, helping to preserve the environment, and facilitating trade. A thorough comparison of FSC, SFI, CSA, and PEFC is available is available at

    Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization, which promotes sustainably managed forests through independent third party certification. The PEFC provides an assurance mechanism to purchasers of wood and paper products that they are promoting the sustainable management of forests. A thorough comparison of FSC, SFI, CSA, and PEFC is available is available at


    Green-e certification
    identifies products and services made with renewable energy that doesn’t pollute, such as wind, solar, biomass and hydrogen fuel.


    Green Seal certification identifies products that contain at least 30 percent post-consumer material and are manufactured without chlorine or chlorine derivatives.


    Rainforest Alliance works with FSC to help companies work with sustainable sources. Rainforest Alliance certification is an independent seal of approval “that goods and services were produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities.”


    Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program offers a diverse set of certification and verification services. Each of these services has a different focus, ranging from Forest Stewardship Council certification, to verification of legality, to the management of high conservation value forests.


    Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) refers to papers that contain postconsumer recycled fiber that was processed without the use of any additional chlorine or chlorine compounds. If these papers also contain a percentage of virgin fiber, the virgin fiber must have been processed without the use of any chlorine or chlorine compounds. Because PCF paper contains recycled-content fibers, PCF paper production can also reduce water, energy and virgin fiber usage.

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